The paper "The Evolution of Stereotypes about African Americans in Media" is a telling example of a term paper on social sciences. African Americans have come a long way in the media’s eye, however little has changed. African Americans are visible on television, radio, and film, but the stereotypical concepts are promoted subliminally. In the early part of the twentieth century, African Americans played the role of coon, mammies, and minstrels. The only difference between the past and present is African Americans choose to play these roles with one another instead of next to a white actor or actress.
Successful on the radio, the Amos and Andy radio show depicted two black men played by white men in 1928. The theme of the show was two black migrants from the south adjusting to urban living. The pair decided to open a business and appeared to end up in a tight squeeze. “..One of the most popular programs in the history of radio broadcasting…” the NAACP protested the image the show about black people. Chapters 19, slide 10. Today, one can find the same type of skits on morning radio shows in the urban areas. Many of these morning shows have African Americans laughing, joking, and appearing unintelligent. For example, there is a radio show based in Baltimore, Maryland. The show airs in the evening, the hostname is Pork Chop, and his sidekick is Squirrel Wyde. During the name of the show is ‘Off the Hook Radio’ and during the show whenever something happens he blurts out the term ‘you stupid!’ Instead of two white men depicting black people ‘shucking and jiving’, in the twenty-first century, black men are playing the role voluntarily.
When we look at television, the same phenomenon has occurred. When Andy and Amos moved from the airwaves to the big screen in 1951, the sitcom became very popular. This time black men played the characters, but complaints about the show forced its cancellation. Chap 19. During the latter part of the twentieth-century shows like Martin, The Steve Harvey Show, display black men who appear regular yet they are always laughing and joking, just like the minstrel shows of the past. The image of the black man on the screen has remained the same. He must joke and keep the crowd laughing in order to be palatable. We rarely see a show about being an educated black man without a protagonist or married with a family that deals with everyday life issues. The media continues to portray black men as coons, aggressive individuals or toms. The role of toms is not very noticeable; however, on shows like Miami Vice, and E.R., there are images of black men who do not play the lead role. The African-American male continues to play second best to their white counterparts. Samuel Jackson continues to show society that the black man is aggressive and fearful. He usually plays the role of the angry black man, for example, Jungle Fever and Lakeview Terrace, this compares to the movie Birth of a Nation, debuted in 1915, when the black-faced white man portrayed black men being aggressive toward white women.
Black women face the same obstacles as black men. They too are typecast to be mammies, vixens, and tragic mulattos. Chapters 19, slide 13. Many of the mammy roles are in the movies. The 1994 movie, Corina, Corina, starring Whoopi Goldberg is a great example of how the mammy roles are designated for African American women. Halle Berry often portrays the mulatto in distress. For example, in Monsters Ball she was an African American woman raising a child on her own, and in the movie Losing Isaiah she is playing the role of an addict who is fighting to prove that she is worthy of having her child back. Tyler Perry has really kept the ‘mammy’ role alive in his works. The Madea character is the epitome of a modern-day mammy. Madea takes care of her family, she is a heavyset woman and strives to make matters better for her family. In his sitcom show Meet the Browns, and House of Pain, the entire cast are jesters and mammies. It is healthy to encouraged laughter within the culture; however, these shows are not different from the sitcom from the seventies, Good Times. This show portrayed what life is like in the projects of Chicago, Florida, the mother took care of everyone, J.J. the eldest son is the jester, James the father, is the aggressive, unbending black man, and Thelma the daughter, looked like the seductive, innocent black woman. Unfortunately, the roles of black women in the media have not changed. African American women appear to be different; however, the underlying message remains the same. Black woman takes care of the home, are seductive and angry.
Roles of black men and woman have not changed significantly in the film, television or radio industry. The appearance looks different in the twenty-first century but the messages remain the same. Black men and woman continue to assume the traditional roles as mammy, coons, and jesters. Unfortunately, it may be hard to identify these historical roles because the method of delivery is easy to the eye, but it is still true that, “…Black actors had limited opportunities to play complex characters in American film.” Chapters 19, slide 15.